Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sermon for 7/14/19: Fourth Sunday After Trinity

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Enduring Mercy
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Mercy is the primary characteristic of our God. It is what separates Him from all pagan deities, all false gods. He does not punish us according to our sins. Instead, He rewards us for the goodness of His Son, Jesus Christ. He does not count us as rebels, but as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, who have been adopted into His own household in the waters of Holy Baptism, whose sufferings will end and in whom glory will be revealed. God is good; His mercy endures forever. Nothing can separate us from this great love.
So Jesus commanded: “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” That is a Law statement. It is something God expects of us. As those who have received great mercy, the forgiveness of all our sins, we are to be merciful. It is important that we notice that this is Law. It is the knowledge of sin. Being merciful justifies no one. The primary way that God uses the Law is like a mirror. He uses it to show us our sin. God expects us to be merciful. Thinking on our behavior and attitudes, we see that we have not been merciful. We have been greedy and self-serving. We must repent: we must turn from our sin; we must turn toward God. When you do not show mercy; when you do not reflect the light of Christ toward your neighbor; when you do not turn toward God, you only hurt yourself. God doesn’t want you to hurt yourself. He wants you to enjoy life lived in His grace and mercy, to bask in the freedom from sin.
Thanks be to God, there is more to this sentence of Jesus then just the command to “be merciful.” He continues: “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” The mercy of the Father is the power of God unto salvation. God is merciful, and so we are saved. The good news is not what we are to do, or what God expects of us. Rather, the good news is who God is: the merciful One. The good news is that God has shown mercy to us. While we were yet sinners, completely undeserving of any love; while we were loveless and unlovable; He loved us. He sent His Son to us, even though He knew we would murder Him. He could have rightly punished us. Instead, He was merciful. And by our hateful, violent crime, He has worked our salvation; He has made us His sons and daughters. The innocent Blood of that holy Victim does not cover us with guilt the way that Abel’s blood stained Cain. Instead, the blood of Jesus, shed by our violence, covers our violence. It removes our sins. It washes us clean. The Son went willingly to this death to spare us the penalty we deserved. He is merciful. This good news of God’s mercy in Christ is the power of God unto salvation. Believing that Jesus has suffered for us; believing that, for His sake, our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us; we are saved.  
Having been forgiven, we forgive. Having received compassion and mercy, we are free to live in compassion and mercy. We have something bigger than ourselves, something worth giving. Christ works in us. He makes us like Him. He uses you to extend His mercy to others. His suffering, death, and resurrection is lived out in the lives of His saints.
So “give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.” He has had pity on us. He does not punish us according to our sins. He rewards us for the goodness of His Son, Jesus Christ.  That mercy is administered from this holy altar in the fellowship meal of love and mercy. Christ feeds us with His own body, murdered and resurrected; He feeds us with His blood, shed and living. This mercy removes all transgression, all guilt, regret, and shame. It is not merely a token of His love; it is His love. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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